'I have never come to this industry to have a ‘star’ image: Vikram Vedha actress Radhika Apte on bold choices, expectations, passion and more 

The actress opens up about her organic side in this in-depth interview.

Priyamvada Rana Published :  30th September 2022 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  30th September 2022 12:00 AM
Radhika Apte

Radhika Apte

There are just a handful of actors who shine like diamonds in their absolute rawness. Radhika Apte is one. The Parched star is loved by audiences for her standout boldness, effortless style, natural beauty and venturesome spirit. It’s reflected when she breaks conventional beauty standards, does not shy away from supporting roles, experiments with various facets of filmmaking and is ready to dabble in OTT when others are apprehensive about the idea. In all her endeavours, she has made a cut above the rest by making brave choices.

Moreover, what distinguishes her is her pursuit of interesting work rather than the pressing chase for stardom. Perhaps that’s why in her decade-long career, she’s chosen projects irrespective of the length of the role, the kind of platform and the medium of expression. Today, she’s a show-stealer with a vast repertoire of 40 plus credits in theatre, short films, OTT web series and feature films. Her formidable performances always leave an indelible mark on the audience — be it with plays like Kanyadaan, notable short films like Ahalya to bang-on OTT releases like Sacred Games, Lust Stories, Raat Akeli Hai and hit feature films like Badlapur, Padman, Andhadhun and more.

As her new film Vikram Vedha — a neo-noir action thriller written and directed by the acclaimed duo Pushkar-Gayathri — goes to floors, Radhika is hoping for the best. While she wishes for success, failures never set her aback. In fact, the Parched star embraces them with a chin-up attitude. We caught up with her over a video interview where the Ghoul star speaks her heart out on how she takes audience expectations, critical feedback, star status, long-distance bonds and more. By the end of our chat, we felt she truly personifies the idea of simple living and high thinking. How? Know more from the excerpts:

Your movie Vikram Vedha has hit the floors. Do you ever feel nervous before a release?
I do things differently, sometimes they work, other times they don’t. You have to train your mind to be okay with the outcome. And you can be fine with reality only when you learn to take risks. I chose Vikram Vedha as I liked the subject a lot. Moreover, everything from the cast to the director and storyline were fascinating to work with. I hope it works! It was one of the most watched films in the South that everybody loved and this version is also something that one has not seen in Hindi cinema before.

After over a decade in cinema, how do you think the film industry has changed?
Today we are presenting a wide range of content. We see a lot of writers and actors from various backgrounds getting employed in the industry. The world has become smaller where we watch content from all across the globe. The subjects portrayed are also becoming more eclectic and are constantly changing. For women, I’d say, they are getting better roles. Another change is that while earlier, there were only a few production houses who were running the industry, now we have many new faces entering the market. The moment you have different people coming in, the portrayal of issues, expressions and what people are interested in change tremendously. Altogether, we are representing a more diverse population now.

Do you aspire to stand by a certain cause as an artiste given some of your movies are around socio-political dynamics?
I don’t think my filmography is related particularly to politics. Perhaps, politics is there all around us — it’s there in a couple’s relationship for example if you take a love story. So in that sense, we can explore the political dynamics in any story. As an artiste, I don’t choose my films to stand by a certain cause. My criteria to go with a project is if I like the story or the director or co-actor.

Do you aim to work as per audience expectations or go with your heart’s calling?
I prefer not to design my life or work according to what the audience expects. I’d do a project only if it genuinely interests me. I like to learn different aspects of filmmaking like direction, screenwriting and more and I pursue them purely for personal reasons not to necessarily change the direction of my career or life. Having said that, I do take the audience’s feedback including positive remarks and criticism very openly. In fact, if someone gives me critical feedback, I’m more interested to hear that as I like to know about different opinions. Once someone told me that ‘if more than two people tell you the same thing about what they did not like, then you should take it seriously because there is something in it’. I believe in that thought.

You have done many supporting roles, don’t you have any apprehensions over the size of the role?
I am ready to do even a smaller part if it’s interesting. For example, take Andhadhun, it was a minor role but I enjoyed playing it as I admired the work of filmmaker Sriram Raghavan and loved the edgy plotline. So, that way, I do a lot of work. The length of the character or the popularity of the platform does not matter as I am keen to experiment. Perhaps, this is why I was one of the very few ones to go for OTT work when other actors had their reservations. I feel, your work will reach to the audience irrespective of the character, length, platform, medium etc if it’s engrossing and convincing. If at times, it doesn’t resonate with people, that’s also fine. You take risks, make mistakes, learn and grow.

You’ve been into performing arts like kathak, contemporary dance, theatre and more. How has it evolved you as a person?
Art has introduced me to so many amazing people around the world who are extremely passionate about what they do. I have seen people, who for years have been doing something very small-scale with complete devotion and that’s inspirational! Moreover, my work has made me travel a lot. It has broadened my perspective to a level where I look at things differently. I hope I have developed more compassion because of the opportunity I have got to essay a slew of roles as an actor. I feel, that when you play a role, you really have to make the audience root for that part which generates empathy in your heart as well for the character. That changes you as a person and performer too.

You often give a glimpse of your non-glitzy and more natural side through your social media posts. What makes you stay away from the frenzy of stardom?
I have never come to this industry to have a certain ‘star image’. Neither I am chasing any goal of becoming an A-lister. I don’t like the unnecessary urge to put out a dolled-up side of me. I am not somebody who likes to go to parties. In fact, whatever I am wearing right now(shows her dress) is just for work. If I am not working, believe me, I sometimes don’t even comb my hair (laughs). So I am quite the opposite of all this glamorous avatar you are seeing right now. I feel, we have this strange largerthan-life image of actors ‘that they go in fancy cars or they have ritzy houses and all...’ but in the end, they’re just actors who are doing their job. They should be treated just like fellow humans.

In times when relationships are so fragile, how do you handle a long-distance marriage?
I am not a big fan of marriage nor am I against it. I don’ t see any difference between marriage and a live-in-relationship, apart from the legalities. Other than that, I feel a commitment is a commitment no matter what kind of companionship you dedicate to. Having said that, I think every relationship has ups and downs. In my marriage with Benedict, we’re having a good time as we both are very like-minded people. Our bond is strong as we give each other the freedom to be who we are. We explore ourselves individually, outside the scope of our companionship. We always have each other’ s back and perhaps that’s why we’ve been together for the last decade! In the end, it all comes down to finding a friend who you connect with in an organic way.

You have spoken about the darker side of Bollywood — one where discrimination, especially in the gender spectrum persists. Has that changed now?
Yes, a lot of things have progressed but there is still a long way to go. While we have different shapes, sizes, skin colour, age-groups being accepted in the inclusive umbrella of cinema, mainstream cinema, is yet to change. If we see, the kind of films that are becoming popular today, they are the ones which are about ‘men being macho’. Makers are creating such films as this is what people like to see. So until society’s preferences change, it’s tricky to move ahead imagining a change. Also, it is not just about Bollywood that’s grappling with vices like inequality. It’s about our society in general. You take any society even outside of India or any field be it corporate, business, medicine, law etc and you will notice the struggle for gender equality. Even in the smallest units of society — family— you see a differentiation in the kind of freedom your mother, father and brother have. I think, being a public figure, you have to be careful about what you put out. You should take responsibility for your work and the message it heralds and it can be done without limiting one's artistic expression.

Vikram Vedha releases today in theatres.
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